What Are Insider Threats and How Do You Combat Them?

Cyber Security

When it comes to cyberattacks, insider threats are commonly overlooked. Hazards are not only caused by external parties trying to get into your network. Many threats are coming directly within your own company. According to statistics from Goldstein, 60% of data breaches are caused by insider threats. For this reason, we at Usherwood have developed some of the best tools and processes to mitigate cyber-attacks caused by internal sources.  


What are Insider Threats?  

Insider threats are current employees, former employees, contractors, partners, or associates potentially posing as a threat to your cybersecurity. These people have some level of access to your company's systems and data. Internal threats occur when authorized access to an organization’s internal information, data centers, and computer systems abuse this privilege. Insiders who misuse their access privileges can commit fraud, intellectual property theft, data leaks, or release trade secrets. The misuse or abuse of sensitive data can be a massive risk for companies. 


What are the Different Types of Insider Threats? 

Whether the insider threat was deliberate or accidental, it can be equally detrimental to a company. Insider threats can be committed by current or former employees, third parties, partners, or even contractors. These threats vary in several ways, such as their motivations, level of awareness, and points of access. There are three categories for insider threats: malicious insiders, negligent insiders, and infiltrators. 


  • Malicious insiders are people who take advantage of their access and purposefully inflict destructive behavior on the company. 


  • Negligent insiders are those who either unintentionally make errors or disregard policies putting their organization at risk. 


  • Infiltrators are external actors that gain internal access and credentials without any authorization. 


How to Avoid Insider Threats 

It can be tough to detect a cyber-attack from someone with internal access. The key to the organization's information is legitimate; noticing suspicious activity is not easy. It commonly gets passed off as regular activity, even if it’s malicious.  


Regularly monitor your environment. 

To avoid and detect insider threats, your security team needs to keep an eye on all user's regular activities. If something seems slightly out of place, they can begin to monitor that user more carefully. Knowing what data is sensitive and keeping tabs on where it’s being used, how it’s being used, and what type of risks are associated with it is critical to detect an insider threat. 


Perform employee background checks. 

To minimize the threats from one of your own employees, ensure you’ve done thorough background checks before hiring and giving access to your network’s sensitive data. If a new employee is planning a malicious attack on your company's network, most likely, it’s not their first time doing so. For this reason, performing extensive background checks is a good place to start to avoid hiring someone who is a potential insider threat. 


Enforce cybersecurity training. 

Some threats are simply due to a lack of training and security awareness. To avoid this type of insider threat from employees, it’s essential to watch users who have a history of falling for phishing attacks. If employees are not careful, they can accidentally release their credentials and give a hacker an easy access point to hack into the system under a stolen identity. The better-trained employees should practice how to recognize phishing attacks or suspicious attempts at stealing user passwords or logins. The more training and education, the less likely sensitive data will end up in the wrong hands. 


Selective user access. 

Another way to avoid insider threats is only to permit select people to access sensitive company data. When fewer users have access, this means less risk of anything getting intentionally or accidentally released. It also makes it much easier to pinpoint who may have been the culprit of the leak if only a few people have access. To do this, we recommend users have the minimum-security permissions to do their tasks. For instance, not allowing users to have admin access, but instead, having a set admin account that only authorized employees can use. This is yet another step towards good cybersecurity hygiene. 


Looking for More Ways to Mitigate Cyber Threats? 

New cyber threats are becoming increasingly common. With so many people transferring to remote work environments, skilled hackers are using this to their advantage and gaining access to users' credentials. It’s essential to educate all employees on the risks of cyber threats to avoid valuable information getting leaked, leading to irreparable damage.  

There are many ways that businesses can use different tools and resources to stay ahead of threats and detect them before it's too late. Usherwood helps businesses detect any potential vulnerabilities that could lead to a cyber-attack. As an MSP, we recognize many companies are being affected by many threats. To learn more about these threats and how to avoid them, reach out to Usherwood for a tech evaluation.

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About Darrian Breedlove, Content Writer

Darrian Breedlove is Usherwood's Content Writer. She manages Usherwood's message by integrating educational content into our company culture.